Turning Burma’s brain drain into a brain gain

Many Burmese expatriates and professionals have been working abroad for decades for plenty of good reasons, but is now the time for Myanmar’s brain drain to turn into a brain gain? AsianCorrespondent.com recently explored the topic of returning to Myanmar to work by interviewing Burmese expatriates and returnees alike.

To begin with, it should be pointed out that very few Burmese expatriate returnees have been fortunate enough to secure a job back home that pays what they can earn working abroad and I suspect that’s not going to change in the immediate future. Moreover, those who do return to work or become entrepreneurs face many challenges, such as poor infrastructure, a very different work culture and both political and economic uncertainity.

However, Thar Htet, who is running a tech start-up in Yangon after living in Singapore for 11 years, gave the following advice for potential Burmese expatriates who consider returning home:

“Get a skill and settle down back at home. You won’t make as much money as you do in foreign countries, but your children will.”

Other reasons given by those interviewed by AsianCorrespondent.com for returning to Myanmar included family reasons, attachment to traditions and the ability to contribute to the country’s development or rebirth.

On the other hand, reasons given for not returning included being overqualified for the jobs that are currently available in the country’s rather small and underdeveloped economy and an inability to fit back into Burmese society after having lived and worked abroad for a long period of time.

With that said, major foreign MNCs are increasingly setting up or looking at setting up a presence in Myanmar plus there are number of infrastructure projects underway that will require skilled workers or improve the country’s business environment or economy. So while right now may not be the best time for many Burmese expatriates to return home, its certainly the time to start considering returning home at some point in the near future.

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